A few months ago, I hit on a sort of interesting cruising website: BigMuscleLeather. If Mondo Recon is the Wal-Mart of gay leather sites, BigMuscleLeather is kind of a "boutique" site, started by two guys named Bill and Andy (I believe), who are apparently fixtures in the leather-bear community in SF, and the founders of BigMuscle.com.
When I first stumbled upon it, I was a little dubious. First off, there's the name, which sort of sounds like it's a translation of one of those long German words comprising a string of nouns, adverbs, and adjectives strung together that ends up meaning something like "washing machine." (This occurs in German because those tribes inhabiting the Rhine Valley never benefitted from the latinization that other european peoples conquered by the Romans enjoyed, thus, their language is closer to the roots of the original Indo-European. Lovers of German contend that makes the language more evocative and more precise, many words having subtle shades of meaning that are readily evident to native speakers. Hence, the popularity of certain German words that have found our way to these shores, such as Schadenfreud ("Shameful" + "Joy") to describe the little twinge of self-satisfied happiness you can't help feeling when hearing of the misfortune of another; Zeitgheist ("Time" + "Spirit," but the use of "spirit" from which we get the Anglo-Saxon word "Ghost,") to mean the "spirit of the times"; and--one of my personal favorites--Weltanschuung ("world" + "view," as in the view you would have from the top of a very tall mountain, seemingly reaching to the ends of the earth, to describe the idiosyncratic way you look at life and your own place in the Cosmos.)
Hence, I usually refer to the site to myself as Grossemuskelleder, or, Big + Muscle + Leather.
[Note: I had a semester and a half of German in college and I didn't do all that well. I just could not get the hang of cases. For no good reason at all, Aus, Außer, Bie, Mit, Nach, Von, Zu sticks in my mind, which are the parts of speech that indicate the use of some case or other. Genitive? Nominative? ¿Quien sabe?. So all that German is probably rife with errors.]
So the other thing that gave me pause about Grossemuskelleder is the fact that you had to be vetted to become a member of the site, doing up your profile for the review of someone--presumably Bill and Andy--and had to pass muster to come on board. The criteria could very well be as simple as, "Yup. I can see his face in the pic and that's a valid email address," but my own crippling self-doubt squirmed to the surface to point out that maybe I wasn't "Good Enough" for GrosseMuslelleder.
And Jiminy Crickets! Grossemuskelleder can sure make you feel inadequate.
Almost universally, the membership comprises leathermen with Really Big muscles. Hulking, beautiful, handsome men. The kind of men that I personally would never have the wherewithal to walk up to and start talking to in a bar. (Although having made the acquaintance of many similar demigods over the years, once you get to know them, many are as beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside. Some, of course ...not so much.)
So anyway, here's the thing that I find really really intriguing about Grossemuskelleder: the profiles.
An interesting graduate thesis could probably be written (can you still major in Semiotics at Brown? this would be perfect for that) about profiles on Gay cruising sites.
Here's representation of a profile on Manhunt: "Abercrombie GWM 32 y.o. 5'11" 165 smooth 9 cut vers. Like mutual JO your place after work" followed by some reeeeeally unattractive snarky comment like "fat old guys don't even bother me" or "please prove to me that there all gay men aren't total losers," and all of that would be topped with a couple of pictures of the guys elbow or him standing fully clothed on the Marin headlands overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge with his face pixelated or an indistinct shot taken in the bathroom mirror with the flash obscuring the head.
Then there's a site like BNskin, where most profiles have nothing along the lines of any kind of physical description of the author, merely some description like "inked filthpig cumhound 4 SSorted mateSS" accompanied by a couple of pictures that wouldn't be out of place in Proctology textbooks.
But it's telling that the form that profiles take tend to be similar within a site, but dissimilar from site to site, no? Undoubtedly, guys have multiple profiles on multiple sites, each one adapted in accordance with the lingua franca. So very likely, Abercrombie GWM and inked filthpig cumhound could be one and the same person.
Each site seems to have its own unwritten ethos, and when you're in Rome, you do as the romans do.
Now then, what would you imagine profiles to be like on Grossemuskelleder?
They're poetic. For the most part anyway. There are many many that don't have anything written at all. But it's not uncommon to find, beneath a raft of pictures of the guy that would be worthy of any beefcake calendar, a five hundred thoughtful and thought provoking words he's chosen to describe himself. I've run into quotations of Shelly for pete's sake! But regardless of how well-spoken they are, most of the members of Grossemuskelleder are doing their level best to explain who they are and what they're about.
It's almost an answer to the question, If everybody in the world was "Hot," what would you do to stand out? When everybody is fairly well armored with slabs of muscular pecs, delts, and lats, ironically it becomes the content of your character that matters most. These grosserenmuskelledermänner are all off in a parallel universe, sitting around in togas pondering the Great Questions like they were the School of Athens.
Y'know... just one man's opinion.